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That's a Good Question

Is Ezekiel's End-Time Prophecy Unfolding in Israel?

October 31, 2023

Jon Delger


Ryan Kimmel

­­JonHey everyone, welcome to That's a Good Question, a podcast of Peace Church, the place where we answer questions about the Christian faith in plain language. My name's Jon, I get to serve as the weekly host of the show as well as a pastor, and our purpose here is to help people grow in their knowledge of the Bible and their walk with the Lord by answering their questions. So please submit questions at We'd love to get them and talk about them. I am here today with Pastor Ryan.

RyanHow you doing, Pastor Jon?

JonI am doing well and excited today to dig into a question that came in response to last week. So if you didn't hear last week, we talked about Israel the whole time. So do us a favor and tune into that episode if you want to kind of get some context. But we're going to be answering a big follow-up question. We're just going to focus on one, a follow-up question from that episode. So lots going on in the world stage right now surrounding Israel. And so we address that from a biblical and theological standpoint about where does Israel fit into kind of the biblical picture of the end times and all that kind of stuff. And so the question that was posed to us was this, what is our interpretation of Ezekiel 38 and 39? That's the question. And there's tons we can say about that because there's a lot going on. So we're just going to kind of work our way into it through a series of questions. And the first one we'll start with is this, who is Gog and Magog, the main characters of this passage if you're not familiar.

RyanYeah, so Gog and Magog, Ezekiel 38-39, also referenced in Revelation 20. So here's already with that question, no matter which way you go, you're going to find Christians on different sides of this equation, on all sides of this equation, and even on the other sides of the equations, you'll have varying degrees of how people think about this.

JonOh yeah, there's like four different perspectives and then there's like sub-points, sub-perspectives underneath each of those.

RyanYeah, absolutely. And it seems like those who care the most have the most specific thoughts about all this. And so I'll just confess I'm not in that camp, but here's what I'd say. So Gog and Magog, you can find references to those names in the earlier pages of scripture but in Ezekiel 38 and 39 again especially with a book like all the pages of scripture but especially with a book like Ezekiel which is so like prophetic and apocalyptic you kind of have to understand the broader context of what's going on I mean Ezekiel's in exile you know if the book all happens if this vision all happened on one day it happened on his like 30th birthday. You know, this is a tremendous thing that's going on. So he's in exile. He's a priest or he was a priest. And he gets a vision from God. And this is clear. I mean, you have to understand this is a vision from God about the predicament Israel is in and their future. And one of the things that I think, especially for us in the West, our post-enlightenment minds, we want to try to understand things at a scientific level. And so that's not always how scripture is written. This is an apocalyptic approach. This is vision. And one of the things that we have to understand, especially with apocalyptic literature, is there's a thread of hope that we have to underscore, and that's what we look for. So when we begin to think about that, especially with Gog and Magog, I would say, when we look at this, that Gog and Magog are archetypes.

And so to clarify, we're speaking of Gog as an embodiment of a person, and Magog is like the land that he's from. So we say Gog and Magog, but you also could kind of think of it as a Gog from Magog. And so they talk, you know, Ezekiel talks about Magog being from distant lands, kind of some references to the North. And so, ultimately, I think what you're seeing in there is you're seeing that Israel's in an extremely terrible predicament in exile, and we're looking for hope, and God gives this vision, but he's also talking about the reality of the world that we live in, and the forces are against God's people. And so, Gog, in many ways, is kind of the embodiment of everything that's wrong in the world, everything that's against Israel and God's people, and Magog's the land that he's from, and it goes on to talk about how Magog and Magog will come against Israel, but the main point is is that not only will Israel overcome, but they'll overcome because God himself intervenes. So maybe I'm getting a little ahead of the question, but to answer, that's a very long way to say Gog and Magog. Gog is a person, Magog's the land that he's from. Whether or not, speaking of specific people, we know it's a vision, so in some sense, there's a grander perspective going on that Dogg is the embodiment of all that's wrong in the world and the forces that are against God's people.

JonNo, I think that was a good introduction to everything that's going on in that chapter. That is the picture, right? There's these characters that are the bad guys to Israel, and they come in, and they come in in a serious way.


JonYeah, they come with force. And everything looks like Israel is doomed, and yet God intervenes, and they have victory. Huge victory. So that's basically the story of those chapters, and yeah, what's going on. So yeah, you brought up the places, and there's talk about, are they from the north? And then, so this is where it gets interesting, and it gets really related to today. People start talking about today, because they look at that and they say, well, they're thinking the north is Ukraine or Russia. And then there's some words in there that people think maybe that's referring to Moscow, modern day Moscow. But actually, if you read some of the stuff on it, you find out that those words can be interpreted in different ways. Maybe it refers to a specific place that could be Moscow, or it could just be referring to, I forget, it gets translated a different way that could be referring to something totally different, just describing like an adjective of the person. So there's a few different ways you can go with how you translate the original Hebrew in these texts as to what's going on. But that's how it gets, that's how we get into kind of, that's why it makes its way into the current affairs, current news kind of section is, because people see it as referring to major events going on surrounding Russia and the current nation of Israel is kind of how we get to that conversation. So you brought up also, it shows up in Revelation 20. So the two places that these characters show up are both in visions of the future. Pastor Ryan, do you want to share with us any kind of notes of how we should approach whenever we're accustomed to.

RyanWe don't see writing produced like that. This is foreign to us. Understanding this takes a great amount of humility. But I'd say when you look at these, you know, there's a couple of things. We talked about always being looking at this in context. Both of the contexts have to do with battle. In Revelation 20 it talks about this is the time when Satan's loosed and God's gonna bring an end to that. He's gonna be thrown in the lake of fire. So both these deal with these great big battles where God himself is the one who comes in and brings victory over that. So the first thing is under I would say my approach to this is that when you come to things like this, these visionary descripting passages, these apocalyptic literature. What we want to do is because we want to apply like the scientific method and we want to decode uh quote unquote scripture. We we dial and zoom in. We dial in and we zoom so far in that sometimes we forget the meta story. That's actually that the passage is about both. Those are about pointing to the hope that God will be the one who overcomes evil in the end and so I'd say the first thing is we need to do is approach it with humility, understand that some of these passages aren't necessarily meant to be zoomed in all the way down to the microscopic level of trying to understand and apply this person to this, you know, this person in scripture to this modern day person. Generations have tried to do that throughout time and proven wrong time and again. I'm not about to do that right now. I know there's some other questions. I don't want to get too far ahead. How would you say to respond to that?

JonI did a little bit of study on, specifically on the Revelation 20 part of it, because usually people start in Ezekiel and then they jump to Revelation and they're trying to figure it out. So Revelation 20 verse 8 is specifically where Gog and Magog are mentioned. So I'll just kind of lay out some of what I read and what I see going on here. So I see in Ezekiel, you got this Old Testament picture of these nations, these huge armies attacking the nation of Israel. It's a picture of an impossible situation. God's people are doomed, but they win. God comes in, enemy demolished. Okay, and then New Testament, Revelation 20, I think you basically got a picture of the same thing. Nations and armies, specifically Revelation 20 talks about them being under the deception of Satan, and it says that they're attacking the church, God's people. It's another picture of an impossible situation. God's people are doomed, but God steps in, demounces the enemy, and they win.

So I think in these two passages, we're talking about the same event. That's my understanding of these passages. Old Testament, New Testament, both a prophecy about a future event. And actually, I think we're talking about, so this comes back to kind of some of what we were talking about last week in dispensationalism versus covenant theology. Kind of some big phrases for how people understand biblical prophecy and in time stuff. And so coming from a covenant theology perspective, we would say that the church in the New Testament is the fulfillment of what God had planned for Old Testament Israel. So last time we talked about Genesis 12 and we talked about some different passages. Let me just read, again, I would encourage you to go back to that episode if you want to hear more about that. But here's one passage from Revelation 9 that to me kind of sums up the covenant theology position on this.

So here it is. Revelation 9, verses 6 through 8 says this, But it is not as though the word of God has failed, for not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham, because they are his offspring. But through Isaac shall your offspring be named. And that's a quote from the Old Testament. This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. So what Revelation 9 is saying is that, okay, Israel of the Old Testament, they were, you know, identified as Israel by being Abraham's offspring on the one hand, the bloodline, but on the other hand, really, Israel was about imitating Abraham's faith. Yeah. Abraham's faith in God. And then when we get to the New Testament, the same thing is true, that really the true Israel is not an Israel by blood, but an Israel by faith, those who trust God and find him as their Lord and savior. And so the ultimate fulfillment of that is actually the church. The point of it was not for it to forever be one political nation or one bloodline. The point was always for it to be all people's, all nations trusting God.

RyanYeah, entering into covenant with him, receiving that covenant. And like, even when we're talking about, well, people would say something to that passage. Well, so it's just through Isaac's bloodline then, not necessarily Abraham's, but the point by that passage is like, Isaac was the one that carried the promise, not his half-brother Ishmael. And so that's what we're talking about. That's when we talk about following the promise, following the covenant.

JonExactly, yeah, so Abraham sort of tries to take matters into his own hands. That's how Ishmael and that situation goes about. But Isaac is the one that by faith, you know, Abraham all along should have been trusting God and Isaac is actually the child of the promise. And so it's by faith, not by works. And that's kind of how that comes to be. So, and also, you know, so in Revelation 20, it refers to the saints, the camp of the saints being under attack. So, the saints, saints is a word that's sometimes used to describe Israel in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament, especially in the book of Revelation, it's exclusively used to talk about the church. And so, again, I think we've got that same theology going on of that what we're really talking about is the church, the people, God's people, the people of faith, and that the picture in Ezekiel 38 and 39, so here's the conclusion of my interpretation of these passages. Ezekiel 38 and 39 and Revelation 20 are both talking about the final battle. At the end of, however we view the millennium, Jesus' return, there's a final battle where Satan and his forces are persecuting God's people and whatever exactly that looks like, and God steps in, defeats the bad guys, casts Satan into the pit of hell for forever, and rescues his people, the saints.

RyanYeah, I think that's important to know, and I'd like to talk to you a little bit about that more. I think what happens is guys in our camp who aren't the ones who wanna dial in, zoom in, and try to allegorize everything that's happening in prophetic literature, we're not that guy. And so I think what happens is we ended up, I think some people look at the way we talk about this and they say things like, well, you don't believe anything's gonna happen then. Like you don't believe in any prophecy. And we're saying, no, no, no, we think this does point to something that's gonna happen in the future. It's just a bigger, grander culmination of when Christ returns, that God's gonna put an end to all these things. I think if I could dial it down, and maybe you disagree or agree with this, I think in Ezekiel's description of Gog and Magog, they're talking about how the very real presence of the foreign nations will come against their people because Ezekiel speaks from a place of exile. Israel's in exile because of Babylon. And I think in Revelation it's pointing to a more spiritual aspect of this, and the spiritual end that's going to come with, and that's why I think you tie that passage to Satan. So I think, you know, obviously John, when he wrote Revelation, he was a student of the Old Testament Scriptures, he was familiar with this, and I think that's why he picks up that language, talking about the great enemy of God's people in the Old Testament, at least in Ezekiel, was this Gog and Magog coming against them. And in the New Testament, we see the grander fulfillment of that, that's Satan and his forces coming against. But either way, in both instances point to this day when God will bring the final hope realized to his people when he is the one who has victory over the battle. And I think when we talk about this, I've heard some of the commentators and some of the people processing what's going on in Israel right now is they're wondering, is this the beginning of the Gog and Magog war? And that's where it begins to be like, hold on, let's not allegorize what's going on here.

JonWell, and also, I would jump in, so as I was doing some study on this, also I saw, I was just thinking about this, so pre-millennial dispensationalists, there's some big words, but, you know, so that's a description of one certain perspective on this, but pre-millennial dispensationalists, they would say that, you know, Jesus' second coming is before the millennium, the thousand-year reign. You know, we would say that we're in that millennium right now. Jesus is reigning, Satan has been bound, the church is going forward on the Great Commission, and Jesus is going to return at the end of that. But I was thinking about their position and if they're saying, hey, we should be looking for Gog and Magog right now, and that that's right now, actually when you look at Revelation 20, Gog and Magog is at the end of the millennium, not the beginning. So I actually am a little confused about their position on that, but if you're a dispensationalist, I guess I would say we shouldn't be looking for Gog and Magog right now because we're not in the millennium yet. So that's kind of a side point of just looking at the text.

RyanAnd that's where I'm going to say, like, why don't hold that position? So that's, it's hard for me to, and not that you're asking me to defend it, but I'm sure we'll get a lot of comments from our friends who do. And here's the thing though, I think we're both genuine saying, help us understand it, because it doesn't seem like the eschatology timeline is lining up then for that. And so that's why we try to take more of a zoomed out approach that this is a big meta picture, the beautiful thing that God's gonna be doing in the end when he brings the final restoration of all things, which also includes the concluding of evil.

JonRight. If anybody's, and my favorite commentary on Revelation is a short little book, so that's my favorite. My favorite commentary is a short little book called The Return of the King by Verne Poythress. P-O-Y-T-H-E-R-F-S.

RyanI still thought you were going to say J.R.R. Tolkien.

JonThat's awesome.

RyanI was like, we're saying it's not an allegory!

JonBut Lord of the Rings is, so...

RyanIt's a beautiful thing, whatever it is.

JonI think I got the title right, isn't it called The Return of the King? Isn't his commentary the same name as Tolkien?

RyanWe're asking Mitchell, the producer, to clarify that.

JonYeah, that's probably right.

RyanSorry, what was it called? It was called

JonThe Return of the King. Yeah, I think it's called Return of the King. Yeah, Verne Poythress, it's just a short, it's a short book that goes through Revelation. And I think its point is to demonstrate that Christians can understand this. You know, we don't, we don't get all the finer details like you're saying. We don't, we don't get all the finer details, but we get the big picture. Jesus is coming back. He's going to have victory. We're going to be with him. Satan's forces are going to be crushed. Yeah. And this is what I'd say too, this is kind of a theme I have, and I do in no way want this to sound like a scapegoat answer, but my response to this when people want to dial in to this topic is let's not get so immersed in trying to identify or trying to decode the Bible that we forget to actually live out the message of the Bible, live out the message of the Bible, which is to love God, love our neighbor, share the gospel, go and make disciples. Let's focus on that and however it's going to play out, that's the way it's going to play out. And there's nothing you can do to change or alter that. So what you can do is do exactly what Jesus called us to do, which is to love God and love our neighbor like yourself and go into the nations and make disciples. That's what I want Christians to be preoccupied with right now, is fulfilling the commandments and the great commission of God. And, you know, let's study the scriptures. Let's be prepared for the end. Let's stand as the watchman ready. But let's not let our fascination with end times prophecy distract us from the mission that the Savior actually gave us to do. And so my encouragement to all the Christians who are listening is, it's a fascinating discussion. We love to have it alongside with actually trying to love our neighbor and share the gospel. Right. So practically, if you have watched more than three YouTube videos today on that topic. Oh, this is talking to me. You should maybe switch.

RyanSo this isn't necessarily a video. We pull video clips from this, but would this count, Pastor Jon?

JonYeah, you can count that as one of the three.

RyanAll right. All right.

JonPick a different topic to learn about or go tell somebody about Jesus.


JonThat's their takeaway.

RyanSo I think just to try and summarize it real quickly, if someone's going to share, like try to summarize what we're saying, how would you want them to characterize exactly what we just talked about? Including our interpretation of the passage. Yeah. If someone said, you know, I listen to this podcast from Pastor Jon and Pastor Ryan about Gog and Magog, here's what they said.

JonYep. I would want you to say that their understanding of the passage is that God's people are one day going to experience extreme opposition, and God is going to rescue them. And that that's the main point. And that today, we should live knowing that we're still in the fight and we have a job to do to make disciples of Jesus and trust that one day Jesus is coming back to rescue us all.

RyanSo where you fall on the side of this debate, Gog and Magog, I'm just going to throw a radical question at that. Is this a salvation issue?

RyanYeah, exactly.

JonThat's it.

RyanNo. No, what I'm saying is that let's be charitable towards Christians on our different interpretations of this. So pastor Jon as we talk about this, I think one of the questions we should entertain I think because it's a humble question for us is are we being too naive by maybe taking a two meta approach? to these passages because Let's be honest like ezekiel 38 39 give some give some actual detail doesn't always just speak in grand meta terms. There's specific names and places mentioned in this and some details about how death will be brought and whatnot. How would you respond to the question of you guys are taking such a zoomed-out meta approach that you're being naive and even maybe negligent?

JonRight, yeah, I think some would hear this and say that you guys are playing fast and loose with Scripture, right? That you're not being careful, you're not being specific. God is saying some specific things here, so you should get into it. I think the answer comes down to genre and authorial intent. What did the author intend to say? What was his intention? Was it to give us a really specific, detailed picture of the end that we should be trying to chart out a map for? Or was he trying to give a broader sense of, as you were saying earlier, hope, hope to God's people because God ultimately is gonna bring victory to the battle.

RyanYeah, I think that's our answer is that we will dial in and zoom in and get specific based on the type of literature written in the Bible. And here's what we'd say, different books of the Bible are written with a different literary intent. And even different sections within different books of the Bible are approached differently. We talked about how even the book of Daniel, there's some parts that are very historic, telling the history of what happened, but also there's some parts that are very apocalyptic in Daniel. We got Jesus and the Gospels are historical accounts of actually what happened. Within those, you have Jesus teaching parables, which are story form principles of life that we're supposed to imply as we live godly lives. When someone approaches us like that, we would say, we interpret the Bible based on the literary approach of that writing, that set of writing. And again, that could vary even within books of the Bible. Or trying to take it the way the author intended us to take it. The person who wrote it is who gets to determine what genre it is and how it should be read. I think that's like the clearest base approach to respond is we want to interpret it as the author and wrote it.

JonYeah, I was trying to think as we were talking what are some passages that we would take the opposite approach to? You know, what are some passages that it would be inappropriate to take the meta approach to? I'm trying to think of some as I'm even saying this.

RyanI would say, I'll give you one. Like when Jesus says, I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except for me. I think Christ is being extremely specific. He is the absolutely only way to get to God. He's not just saying, if you generally follow my teachings, those who live a good life will come to the Father.

JonOr something like that. So Jesus says, I'm the way, the truth, and the life, and you walk away and you go, yeah, okay, so he's a good guy. Yeah, he's great. And I should probably generally, you know, walk in his way of trying to be a good person and love people. Yeah. Yeah. When, when instead he was actually says, I'm really specific that he is the way, the truth and the life and no one comes together except through him. That's not apocalyptic literature. That's a teaching from Jesus himself about himself that we are to take as very specific as he said it. Right. Or other parts of Scripture, ethical kind of ones where it lays out some specific things you shouldn't do. And so I'm thinking of like, so like the Ten Commandments, you know, if we're reading Scripture and reading it, it says, you know, obey your parents. And we were like, yeah, well, I mean, it says kind of, you know, like generally you should be a good person and do some good stuff. But that doesn't mean I need to listen to the things that my parents say or all the things.

RyanYeah. Or here's another one. I watched a video the other day and this, I don't know where it was from, but it's clearly a Christian setting and there was a person being interviewed in front of an audience doing like a Q&A. And they got asked the question, you know, where do you, what does the Bible teach about women as pastors or women, women preaching, I think what the question was. And the person made a joke of being like, well, time to be done. But then they went on to say, this was very interesting to me, they went on to say, well, there are some verses where Paul kind of bars women from being a pastor or from preaching. He goes, there are a couple of verses that say that. He's like, but if you zoom out and you look at the way that women are elevated in the New Testament, the ways that they weren't across that known world, and you look at how Jesus had women in his company, and you look at the five-fold ministry of Ephesians and doesn't say anything about women not holding those offices, it just kind of went on to like, he zoomed out to the detriment of some very key important verses to say, hey, women have a place in ministry and therefore they should be pastors. And we would say, of course women have a place in ministry. We want to see women do awesome, vibrant, exciting, fruitful ministry. But we can't neglect actual verses of the Bible that say specific things about who can do what at what times. And so that was another instance of like, you know, where does that happen?

JonThat's a great one, yeah, yeah, totally, totally. And again, the whole point is that we say those parts of scripture, the author is intending to say something very specific and clear, whereas Ezekiel 38, 39, and Revelation 20, these are apocalyptic, prophetic books where the point is not to get into the nitty gritty details, but to give a broader picture of God's victory over Satan and the hope that Christians can have.

RyanOr have you seen some of the stuff with, you know, now you can like put in descriptions into AI and AI will give you a visual representation. People are putting in like the descriptions of some of the like prophetic images of angels and AI is putting these like horror level images coming out, these like weird beasts and this conglomeration of this beast with these thousand wings and these thousand eyes. It's just so, it's kind of like, I, you know, like, you're making it so literal, you forget that that picture was being painted here. So there's another instance of that. I like how you say it, though, and I really want to underscore this for people who are listening, especially if you're new to the faith or you're maybe not a Christian. The reason why it seems like Christians kind of, because I was on this side of the fence at one point in my life. It can seem like Christians pick and choose what they choose to believe about the Bible. And we're saying, no, no, no, no, no. Like the Bible is a beautiful, but also beautiful and complex book with a very simple message, but there's layers to it. And we're saying, you have to listen to what the author was trying to teach you in that setting in that moment. We have a book that spans 1500 years, 40 different authors, different contexts, different languages. We don't pick and choose. We actually try to be listening to what the author of that passage is saying under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, of course. But that's why we think it's so important when we approach the Bible that we're listening to the intent of the author, not trying to fit what's being said into some other theology that we have. Our theology must be informed from the scripture. We don't inform the scripture based on our theology.

JonRight. Layers like onions. Or cake. Or cake. Awesome. Hey, thanks everybody for listening. Thanks, Pastor Ryan.


Thank you, Pastor Jon.

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